[Please note: This review concludes the third round of the tournament matches. I have previously reviewed the first round matches here and here, the second round matches here and here, and the first half of the third round here.]
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual tournament concludes its third round, with four huge matches of the New Japan Cup across two nights. Two members of the United Empire look to claim victory on day 10, as Will Ospreay faces SANADA in the main event, and Great-O-Khan runs back their G1 Climax match with Zack Sabre Jr. As the two winners of these matches will collide in the quarter finals, will we see an all United Empire match, or will one or both of Zack Sabre Jr. or SANADA throw a wrench in their plans? On Day 11, former stablemates collide, as Hiromu Takahashi looks to continue his dream run against the man who betrayed Los Ingobernables de Japon to join the Bullet Club, EVIL. Hiromu current LIJ stablemate, Shingo Takagi, has a tough and newly personal conflict of his own to resolve, as he faces Chase Owens of the Bullet Club. Shingo has claimed he will defeat Owens in under five minutes in their first ever singles meeting, following a wicked piledriver from Owens that nearly took Shingo out of the tournament entirely. The winners of these two matches will also face off in the next round, which could lead to a very interesting all-LIJ, or all-Bullet Club semi final.
+ Hiromu Takahashi vs EVIL (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): I really liked this, but it was still just hampered by that same garbage House of Torture/Bullet Club stuff. Hopefully with the recent Bull Club story playing out the way it did, that sort of garbage might be dialled back a bit, but I’m not holding my breath. The commentators continually put over Hiromu as not being quite a junior or a heavyweight, and I think that is apt; I agree he doesn’t quite fit in with either completely. This was exiting, and one of the more clear ‘good guy versus bad guy’ matches in a long time, but I liked the immediate ending more thant he bulk of the match
+ Will Ospreay vs SANADA (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): these two have great chemistry, not least of all when Ospreay gets to be the jerkass you love to hate. I make no secret of my distaste of SANADA at times, but Ospreay may be joining the conversation (alongside Sabre Jr) when talking about SANADA’s best opponents. I couldn’t help but notice a few big siles on SANADA’s face a few times, and I wonder if that was an intentional thing, or he just heard something funny in the crowd. Still, this was good and it sets up a good match to come
+ Great-O-Khan vs Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): this was a pretty good, much like their G1 math, with an ending that played almost directly into what happened then. O-Khan really is a hybrid pro wrestler, as he can believably monster around someone like Shingo, or look competent in out-wrestling someone like Sabre. I have said before that Sabre is best when he is playing defence to his opponent, and this was no exception, which made for an exciting match that really could have gone either way
– Shingo Takagi vs Chase Owens (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): you know the deal, “Shingo good, Owens okay”. It was interesting to see Chase essentially playing the powerhouse against Shingo, who was working with an injured neck courtesy of Owens the day before, but I don’t know if it was believable. I like Shingo, but it is matches like that that make me think he will never get the chance to be in that top echelon of NJPW wrestlers, which is where I want him to be, and think he should be
> The matches set up by the winners of these ones are absolutely bonkers, and I can’t wait.
Should you watch this event: Three out of four isn’t too bad, and that’s not to say there was nothing of note in the Shingo/Owens match. I know I repeat myself, but NJPW tournaments often have some of the lesser-tier wrestlers go on a bit further than they might otherwise, and sometimes it makes for exciting underdog stories, and sometimes it doesn’t. No matter the winners here, the next round of matches are crazy good.